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Gulbarg Riot Witnesses Hope For Justice, Say Have Sleepless Nights

The ancestral home of Ehsan Jafri who was hacked to death by a mob in Gulbarg massacre (Reuters)

The ancestral home of Ehsan Jafri who was hacked to death by a mob in Gulbarg massacre (Reuters)

There are 66 accused named by SIT in this case of whom nine are behind bars for 14 years while others are out on bail.

It has been a long wait for justice for the families of the 69 people killed in the Gulbarg Housing Society massacre that took place during the 2002 Gujarat riots. Fourteen years after the massacre, a special court in Ahmedabad will on June 2 pronounce its order in the case.

The prime witness in the case Imtiyaz Pathan claims that the verdict must set an example for those who plan any violence. "It was a dreadful scene. It has been almost 15 years but even now when I think about it, I cannot sleep. We hope that the perpetrators will be given a harsh punishment," says Pathan.

Former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri was among those killed in the riots. Many people had gone to his house after the riots broke, believing that they would be safe with him.

Several people had gathered at Jafri's house as he had been an MP. Everyone thought that when the force comes, he will be saved first. But despite desperate attempts by him, we did not get any help [name]Imtiyaz Pathan[/name]

Jafri's widow Zakia claims she saw 60-70 people being killed in front of her eyes and hopes that justice will be finally delivered. Her son Tanveer Jafri accuses the police of failing to control the marauding mob.

"We have never come to terms with the fact that despite the police station being hardly few kms away from the place, the victims did not receive the necessary help when they were killed. We are eagerly waiting for the judgement so that such incidents do not repeat and those involved get a proper lesson," says Tanveer.

Many of the riot victims also hold the then government responsible for the massacre. "Like people were convicted and sentenced to death in Godhra riots case, people should be hanged for Gulbarg case as well. Several phone calls were made to the police seeking help but no one came forward. If police would have wanted, such riots could have been prevented. The then government and police is responsible for the riots," a petitioner in the case, Firoz Khan, says.

Meanwhile, massive security has been put in place ahead of the verdict. "State Reserve Police has been posted along with CISF personnel. It is a precautionary measure to ensure law and order is maintained after the order. Over 150 police personnel have been deployed," senior police inspector RV Desai claims.

The trial in the case concluded on September 22, 2015. The riots victims' lawyer had argued during the trial that the massacre was a pre-planned criminal conspiracy hatched by the accused to kill residents of the Gulbarg society.

The defence lawyers had refuted the conspiracy theory of the prosecution and claimed that the mob resorted to violence only after Jafri had fired several rounds at them. Defence lawyer Abhay Bhardwaj added that a mob of 1,500 had gathered on its own and not as a pre-planned conspiracy.

No less than 338 witnesses have testified during the trial of the case, which ran for over six years.

The Gulbarg Society case is one of the nine cases of the 2002 Gujarat riots probed by the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT). There are 66 accused named by SIT in this case of whom nine are behind bars for 14 years while others are out on bail.

In the incident that had taken place at the Gulbarg Society on February 28, 2002, 69 persons had been killed.

The incident had taken place a day after S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express train was set on fire near Godhra railway station in which 58 'karsevaks' from Ayodhya were killed.